Sisters Say They Were Kicked Off Southwest Flight For Being Too Emotional

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) –  The last moments Ricci Wheatley and Robin Opperman shared with their father were valuable ones.

“That was really nice to be able to say, ‘I love you,'” said Opperman.

The sisters, though, almost missed the chance to say goodbye after they were kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight, they say, for being too emotional.

The pair boarded a Southwest flight in Burbank, Calif., last Wednesday, hours after learning their father was dying in Dallas.

“I sat down and just started crying,” said Wheatley.

Looking to calm her nerves, Wheatley said, she reached out to a flight attendant.

“I go, ‘I’m a nervous flier. So, when you get the beverage service started, I’d love to have a glass of wine.’ And, she looked at me, probably looked at my eyes,” Wheatley said.

“Because she was crying,” Opperman added.

“I don’t remember what she said exactly – ‘I don’t think so,’ or ‘No,'” said Wheately.

The sisters say it would have ended there, if they hadn’t overheard that same attendant later in the flight.

“‘Oh yeah, we’re all nervous fliers, and we all need a drink,'” Wheatley recalls the attendants saying.

“I just turned around and said, ‘Excuse me, you don’t know anything about me or my situation, so please don’t judge me.’ And that was it,” she said.

That is, until the flight stopped in Oakland, where both sisters were escorted off the plane.

“They didn’t explain anything,” said Opperman.

The airline released a statement saying, “A Southwest Airlines customer and a Southwest Flight Attendant had an onboard disagreement.”

A spokesperson for the airline would not elaborate on what caused the sisters to be removed from the flight, except to say the disagreement “caused the employee to be uneasy with the customers travelling on the flight.”

Southwest rebooked the two on the next available flight, which was the following morning, and made hotel arrangements.

The sisters say they made it to their father’s bedside just in time to let him know they were there.

“Robin said she saw him nod,” said Wheatley.

“Like I saw a small nod. I don’t know,” Opperman added.

The sisters say they aren’t interested in any compensation from the airline.

They say they would like the airline to admit the mistake and to make an effort to keep it from happening again.

  • NiteNurse

    Sometimes people who are emotional can be rude to the point that they can get physical or even violent. I’m pretty sure that it was in everyones best interest that they take a seperate flight since there were already bad feelings between the sisters and the flight attendant. That’s a pretty long flight to have to deal with someone who you aren’t sure about how they are going to act towards you during the flight.

    • BantheScan

      Flight attendants need to understand that not everybody is on VACATION. Lots of people go home to dying and sick family members!

    • Cindy

      I don’t see anywhere in this story where the sisters were rude, violent, or acting as a threat. Seems to me a flight attendant was acting like a pre-pubescent teenager on a power trip. I guess it’s just too much to ask flight attendents actually “work” while on the plane even if their pay doesn’t start till take off. Yes for those who don’t know airlines don’t pay FA’s for ground time.

      • Tamara Libert

        Exactly they think they have this Power Trip and are very rude. When you board the plane they look at you like oh great that person is on the plane. She asked for a glass of wine when the time came, that is IT. Just like I asked for some water and a cup of tea and they were rude to me. I don’t even want to get anything from them anymore. I carry on my own water and hopefully can buy a hot beverage before I board so I don’t need a thing from them. I am military and I fly alot and I have more horrible mean stories than good ones and that is a shame like throwing the cookies at you instead of handing them to you or passing you up altogether and you meekly ask, can I have one and they throw one at you like you already got one and asked for another. It is bad and this is Delta and Continental. Oh I could go on and on. We are all in the Army, my two sons and I and my husband and we have to travel alot for our jobs and we all feel this way. It is so bad!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Buggered

        Do you think that maybe that’s because this entire story is from the sisters’ point of view???

        Of course they will paint themselves as saints who were doing nothing wrong and unfairly targeted. That may be true, or they may be lying to help their lawsuit.

    • Harris

      I have a few flight attendant friends. They are really fun people to be around and I used to enjoy their company. At some point we had got together and they shared and spoke about ‘incidents’ on the plane. I guess you could say ‘private’ stuff. I would suggest to just about anybody who flies and EATS (plane food) while flying that you forget “the customer is all ways right’ attitude and pretty much check any and all complaints or bad attitude at the door. Wait until you get off the plane — TRUST me on this.

    • 2sister

      Maybe, but the flight attendant might have been able to head somethings off if she had taken a moment to find out what was going on in their lives. Also, we need to consider how jokes might affect other people. If we don’t know them, it’s best not to make a joke, because it could be taken the wrong way..

      • Jean

        Do you think they have time to check on every passenger? Hardly. They need to give the same amount of service to every passenger. Two needy women can’t be allowed to disrupt the flight for everyone else.

      • cece

        Jean– she had the time to make a joke at the customer’s expense to another employee. I doubt you would have ignored the smart remark. The attendant is working with the public; it goes with the job she’s paid to do.

      • Tamara Libert

        She ASKED for a glass of WINE when the time came, How is that Needy!!!!!!!!!!!!!????????????????

      • 2sister

        If she had taken tine to find out why she was crying, she might have able to sensitively suggest another way for the woman to deal with her grief. She might have even been able to sensitively explain why she thought another way of handling the grief would be better. Also, Jean, yes, I think she could have tried to find out what was wrong. Nobody is expecting the flight attendant to get everyone’s life story, but if they were apparently distraught and upset, then she could have noticed that and offered help. A flight attendant is there to service the people flying on the airplane.

    • Donna Lusciousdc Sayles-Corbin

      Why is EVERYONE so AFRAID these days? you walk around in a constant state of FEAR. WHY? Like Ray Charles said ” it’s gonna do what it do.” Live your lives to the fullest. Stop all this “everyone is out to get me” attitude. 9/11 really pvcked some of ya’ll up..

    • Donna Lusciousdc Sayles-Corbin

      Why is EVERYONE so AFRAID these days? you walk around in a constant state of FEAR. WHY? Like Ray Charles said ” it’s gonna do what it do.” Live your lives to the fullest. Stop all this “everyone is out to get me” attitude. 9/11 really messed some of ya’ll up..

  • Sisters Say They Were Kicked Off Southwest Flight For Being Too Emotional « Fort Worth News Feeds

    […] Sisters Say They Were Kicked Off Southwest Flight For Being Too Emotional The last moments Ricci Wheatley and Robin Opperman shared with their father were valuable ones. The sisters, though, say the almost missed the chance to say goodbye. Go to News Source […]

  • Clay Henderson

    If Southwest Airlines would consider enforcing their policies uniformly, it would not be such a recurring story. If the airline wants to restrict overconsumption of alcohol among its inflight passengers, it need look no further than its Friday night flights from any Southern California airport and Las Vegas airport. Those flights are filled with passengers AND FLIGHT ATTENDANTS who are collectively more sophmorish than a bus load of school kids on the last day of class before summer break.

    On more than one commute I have witnessed SWA flight crews sink to the same lows as the passengers, which could have very well compromised both safety and security. After the second time I made a complaint at McCarrin Airport about SWA flight crews, I was “watch listed” by SWA. I noticed that thereafter, anytime I bought an SWA ticket, airport security would follow me to the gate, where I would be pointed out to the flight crew. Finally I asked what was the issue, and I was told that the airline had put me in their :internal security system” as a possible “problem passenger.” I was later told by a flight attendant that it was so they could inform the crew to look out for “whiners.”

    I no longer fly SWA at any price! In the future, if I want to be treated like a third world bus passenger, I know that I just have to book on SWA.

    • Gumby Rules

      Don’t believe you a bit. And, if what you say is true, it sounds like it is well-deserved treatment. I am sure SWA is happy you don’t fly with them anymore.

    • Mark

      Dude quit whinning.

      • Chrissy Iemma

        @Mark That was FUNNY!!

      • Learn to spell an elementary school word

        WHINING. That is all.

  • Eric Tinnes

    The airline showed no class in removing the sisters from the flight. The attendant showed no class. The attendant should have been removed from the flight and later terminated for her stupidity and embarrassing humanity and the airlines. The airline should not only apologize, but should fly the sisters home for free. Of course, none of this will happen because we tolerate such disrespect by businesses all the time.

    • Tamara Libert


  • Sisters Say They Were Kicked Off Southwest Flight For Being Too Emotional — Me and the Chicks

    […] father were valuable ones. The sisters, though, say the almost missed the chance to say goodbye. More from:… PreviousPost […]

  • bwhitaker

    First – I will agree with “nitenurse” I know when I am emotional my attitude, and the way I handle things can come across as being b*tchy – and I’m a dude

    Second – I have never had a bad experience with Southwest – even in this situation. I was flying home to Dallas from Denver in March after saying farewell to someone for the last time. As we started to taxi down the runway, I was looking out of the window at the mountains and got upset – almost to the point of sobbing. It wasn’t a jam packed flight, but it was over half full – I had the best flight attendant ever, she came and sat by me, held my hand, and made sure I was ok. I stared out of the window most of the flight, and at one point, I looked towards the isle, and she had sat a box of tissues next to me. When I landed in Amarillo to change flights, she came up to me as I was exiting, and gave me a big hug, and just simply said, “I’m sorry,keep your chin up honey” BEST flight attendant ever!!

    • Denverman

      bwhitaker not everyone has a great experience with flight attendants. I have great times on planes where I was treated very well and other times where I was treated like I came onboard with sh*& on my shoe. Bottom line is if the flight attendant wants to make snide comments then they should be reported and to the airline and disiplined. None of you were on the flight so grow up and shut up.

  • DJ

    I had always heard Southwest had the best customer service. If this is the best – now I know why I would rather drive all day than fly at all!! SAME ON YOU SOUTHWEST!!!

  • Leading Off (8/4/11) | FrontBurner

    […] Sisters Kicked Off Flight. Ricci Wheatley started crying as soon as she and her sister boarded a flight to come home to Dallas to say goodbye […]

  • Vote Quimby

    Come on. SOUTHWEST? What do you expect? The airline was founded by a chain-smoking, Wild Turkey swilling nut. Combine that with the fact that most flight attendants are empty shells of people with pathetic lives who love to exercise their “power” bestowed on them by the FAA, and you get one sh-tty airline.

    • Luvs me some SWA

      Ahh Quimby. Another ill informed idiot who refuses to get their head out of their ass. Maybe if you started smokin’ and drinkin’ like Herb, some of his intelligence and business savy might rub off on you through osmosis or something. Have you not heard that they are the ONLY airline to be profitable for 38 years running. Must be doin’ a hell of a lot of something right. You apparently weren’t there and have no idea how the interaction went down. You know there are always 3 sides to every story.

      • Daniela

        Quimby – I went to one of the top business schools in the country and professors actually frequently mentioned SWA’s business model – and the fact that their organization is so successful. You can’t consistently be profitable if your company has terrible customer service. When a customer sees value in your product, they will return. Value is not only determined by dollar signs, even when everyone is experiencing such dire financial situations.

        Also, what was this passenger expecting? “Oh yeah, have a drink. We will happily jeopardize our jobs because you irresponsibly cope with alcohol.”

      • Vote Quimby

        I’m not saying their business model sucks, I’m saying their customer service does. I went to USC; where did you go to business school? If you make up Wharton as a reply, I’ll laugh my ass off.

    • LMS SWA

      OOOO USC! Should I be impressed? Apparently they didn’t teach you to read AND comprehend. I didn’t just reference their business model. Have never, ever had a bad CS experience, and evidently millions of others haven’t either. Again, read, unless you were there, and if you tell me you were, I’ll laugh my ass off…. You have no idea what happened.

    • skygirl

      @ Vote Quimby- How dare you insult flight attendants by calling them ” empty shells of people with pathetic lives who love to exercise their “power” bestowed on them by the FAA”
      You are rude and obnoxious and I would not want you on my flight. I am a flight attendant and have been flying for 26 years. I take pride in giving my passengers the best customer service I can. I have received hundreds of good letters over the years for my service. I am not an empty shell nor do I live a pathetic life. I do not enjoy exercising my “power” bestowed upon me by the FAA. By the way, what power does the FAA give flight attendants?
      You might want to remember this the next time you fly: Flight attendants are on the plane to save the passengers no matter what the emergency!!!! That is what we are trained for. That is why we go to FAA mandated training every year.We are not glorified waiters/waitresses. We are your lifeline on that plane if there is an emergency. We are the ones that have to deal with anything that happens in the cabin of that plane. We are the first line of defense if there is any conflict on the plane. We do our best to save lives in medical emergencies. SHOW FLIGHT ATTENDANTS THE RESPECT WE DESERVE!!

    • Tamara Libert

      LIKE!!!!!!!!!!!!!! LIke I said, I was at a resort and there were these young girls, SW flight attendants at the pool where I was staying near the airport and all they did was badmouth and laugh at what rude thing they did to a customer and saying, How dare a customer ask them to warm their baby’s bottle. It was just awful. I wanted to say something so badly but they were on a roll. They thought they were all that. Some day they will hopfully grow up.

      • elle

        I remember when stewardesses were so sweet and reassuring. I’m 63 years old, and back in the day, if a stew saw that somebody on board was bereft, she would have comforted her and brought her an extra big glass of wine. But in those days, a stew worked for a few years and got married! It wasn’t considered a thirty-year career position! After thirty years in a rather low-challenge/low potential job, anybody would have an attitude. That said, the passengers have become boors. We always dressed up in our best to fly and behaved like ladies and gentlemen, to make a good impression. Nowadays, so many people are rude and sloppy. Take me back to the Fifties,please.

  • Hauptsturmführer Amon Göthe

    Zis iz zee airline zat kicked off zee fat person, ja? I like zem! Maybe zey can wear swastika armbands to complete zee uniform, ja? Ausgezeichnet!

    • JA WOHL!

      ACHTUNG, DAMEN UND HERREN! In addition to the exit windows and safety features we have just shown, please note that no emotion is allowed on our flights. Also note that you may be called upon to produce your papers at any time during the flight.

      Moshe Goldman to the attendants’ station. Moshe Goldman to the attendants’ station…

  • Coriolana Sinta

    Nice flight attendants! Where do they train? Guantanamo? Between the TSA and the airlines themselves, horses and carriages look better all the time.

  • darrell

    based on your criteria then we should be kicking off people with small children, women who breast feed, the elderly and disabled who may need extra consideration, anyone who qualifies as obese, or just someone like you who is a jerk. damn, i guess no one should be flying.

  • Donna Lusciousdc Sayles-Corbin

    You know, if people would just pay attention to things now days. There have been stories in the News about Southwest Airlines for the last few months or so. I work hard for every dime I make and I refuse to give it to companies that have people like this glorified flying waitress working for them. I count each and every penny I have and can’t afford to waste them on unworthy businesses. I fully agree that “the customer is NOT always right”. But this waitress felt she was in danger? Seems to me she was on a power trip. Probably didn’t think the woman would confront her after she overheard her talking about her.

  • KFEhre

    Some of Southwest Flight Attendants do need compassion training. When my cousin with stage 4 cancer traveled from Houston to Harlingen there were several occasions that she needed to use the “barf” bag due to reaction from the chemo. My Aunt or I would call the flight attendant to quietly let them know so they could bring the trash bag to discard of the used “barf” bag. One a few occasions the male flight attendants made rude comments as he walked off with the trash bag. Keep in mind the bag was discarded by my Aunt or myself never being touched by the flight attendant. My cousin lost her battle with cancer but I do thank the flight attendants who where thoughtful and pray for the flight attendants that were inconvienced by a cancer patient.

    • Pensera

      Isn’t that a disgrace! Whatever happened to compassion? Those attendants were brought up wrong, that’s all I can say. We were taught to show extra sympathy to somebody unfortunate enough to be ill. That flight attendant only shamed himself.

  • John Woelz

    You all were there? Wow, I didn’t realize that. None of you know what was said unless YOU WERE ON THE PLANE. Get over yourselves. If you were NOT on the plane, you ONLY know what this reporter reported the sisters as saying, and nothing more.

  • Sactocal

    SW staff regularly use threats of removal from flights to stifle any disagreement or misunderstanding without regard for right or wrong. Many times using the threat to cover their own rudeness or mistakes.

  • James Billington

    SUE that airline, you dummies! Throw every law in the book at them, down to the last letter.

  • Sky

    I love Southwest, but it seems that everytime there is a story about an attendant over reacting, being rude to a customer or throwing someone off a plane without a valid reason – it is Southwest.

    What is going on?

  • Michelle

    First, my sympathies go out to the sisters in the loss of their Father. Losing a loved one is difficult anytime but even worse when you are treated/judged harshly by someone who does not know you and then ridiculed in public to boot.
    Second, I’m betting the refusal of giving alcohol to someone was something the stewardess was trained to do (red eyes from crying can be mistaken for drug and alcohol abuse) in the name of safety (Homeland security). Additionally, adding alcohol to an emotional person can sometimes invite trouble as well – so on that part, she was probably ‘just doing her job’; However, as a public service worker bee she could have accomplished the same result with a few kind words and questions – had she desired to go the extra mile. In today’s busy world, we often forget about the ‘human touch’ and attempt to cram as much work into a short amount of time to further the profits without costing more to the company. This is a sad fact of how fast paced our world has become. It does not excuse the flight attendant of her callous remarks that were made regarding the request for wine for a nervous flyer. The flight attendant’s remarks were completely out of line, she was not only being cruel but bullying someone – bullying does not stop after graduation, it can and does happen to adults all the time. This particular flight attendant needs to be reprimanded and required to attend sensitivity & security training – if not fired outright. This could have easily escalated into a more dangerous situation had the victim retaliated in a more forceful nature rather than just speaking up for herself. Words when used to make fun of someone, especially someone in an emotional state to begin with, can often escalate an already tense situation, sometimes resulting in physical attacks. I commend the customer for standing up to the bully, however. She handled the situation in an adult manner in my opinion – much better than the flight attendant who is trained to deal with customers face to face. I say BRAVO to the sisters!
    Finally, customer service is not what it used to be especially when ‘customers’ are now evaluated for potential threats from everything dealing with homeland security to your own personal security. The rule “the customer is always right” can no longer be applied in all situations due to the above potential threats. It is a sad fact but thanks to 9/11 a way of life. Now days, employees are trained to be on the lookout for potential threats and what to do in those instances…sometimes they are correct in their judgment call and sometimes, like in this instance, they are not. What I had an issue with was the fact that the flight attendant took it one-step further and started making fun of the customer – within her hearing range. That is unacceptable in my opinion. SWA dropped the ball and owe the sisters an apology (and perhaps free flying miles). Additionally, the flight attendant also should be required to apologize as well. If a child did something of that nature we would expect it of the child, why hold an adult to a different expectation? If the stewardess felt uncomfortable, she could have taken a moment out and explained why she was refusing the drink, perhaps offered words of encouragement to a nervous flyer or found out more about the person she was refusing to serve – she didn’t however, and then compounded the issue by making fun of a customer. Personally, I would not want someone working for me that so easily forgot the one golden rule drummed into almost every child’s head “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I’m quite sure if the shoe were on the other foot, the stewardess would be crying “FOUL!”
    Get it together SWA!

    • C Bauer

      That was like reading a Dostoyevsky novel. Jesus Christ, lady, GET A LIFE!

  • goatini

    Wow. Just wow. A month ago, I flew on JetBlue to what ended up being my Mother’s funeral, as I did not make it in time to say a final goodbye.
    As Leo so astutely pointed out, health conditions can deteriorate very quickly. Upon seating myself and stowing my luggage, my first interaction with a flight attendant was to request a serving of wine as soon as beverage service began, and I shared the reason for my trip. The flight attendant was kind, brought me my wine as soon as possible, and treated me solicitously for the entire flight. In fact, the JetBlue agent at the checked luggage dropoff kindly offered to upgrade my ticket gratis due to the situation, so that my general comfort level would be raised at such a time. (As I had already purchased the upgrade, the kind offer was not needed, but I can tell you that at a time like that, it was very much appreciated.)

    I haven’t flown Southwest in quite some time, and I’ll be keeping to that travel pattern.

  • Fire Them Quick

    SOUTHWEST better fire that worker. If violence happens in the future with a passenger because of their sharp tongue this instance could come up tp haunt them in a big $$$$$ way. After hearing about this I am certainly not flying SOUTHWEST. It’s obvious they condone their employees being jerks to the passengers.

  • Sisters Say They Were Kicked Off Southwest Flight For Being Too Emotional — Me and the Chicks

    […] father were valuable ones. The sisters, though, say the almost missed the chance to say goodbye. More from:… […]

  • Nancy Hatcher

    When I mourn loudly at a hospital after just been told that my 6 year old daughter had died in a car accident, a nurse reprimanded me even louder and told me to remember that I was in a hospital. Twenty five years has passed since that fateful night and I always remember this nurse.

    • Tamara Libert

      Nancy, that broke my heart to hear that. I would have forget neither. That would haunt me forever. She’s a nurse and so noncaring. And she probably is still a nurse and even worse. You should put in your local newspaper about what happened in your opinion section and how it still upsets you and if you remembered her name, write it and hopefully someone will see it and know her and let her know so it hopefully haunts her for acting that way the rest of her days!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • No Drama Queen

    I work in an ICU, and this flight attendant did the right thing by removing the passengers, We are taught that when you have upset family members (mom or dad dying, child dying, etc.) they can rapidly escalate to violence OVER NOTHING. Verbal aggression is the first stop toward physical violence. I’ve seen a family member punch a nurse because she offered his brother a pillow “instead of looking after dad” who was already well taken care of. I’ve seen a MD get thrown across the unit because all he said was, “Your dad’s condition is unchanged.” Screams of “well change it, you blankety-blank” ensued, followed by a physical assault. The flight attendant probably told another attendant “they’re nervous fliers, and are requesting alcohol” — and the woman overreacted. I’m not a flight attendant, but I’d bet there’s a ton of paperwork and hassle on her side for diverting a plane, and it’s not something you do lightly. And the sisters weren’t so “upset” that they couldn’t interact with the folks at the hotel, where they had supper, etc.

  • alli

    Also, if the attendant suspected that the passenger was already intoxicated, she could have easily AND CALMLY told the passenger “I’m sorry, but have you already had anything to drink today?” This would have given the passenger the chance to either respond (a) drunkenly, slurring words, saying “Whattt I’m not drunk occifer!” which would have confirmed the attendant’s suspicions, or (b) with confusion and then a “No, my eyes are red because my father is about to die. Sorry for the confusion, I was slightly joking to lighten my mood, although I do think one small drink would help me.” Or something along those lines. See what happens when we all act like adults? Much easier, don’t you think?

blog comments powered by Disqus
The Taz Show

Listen Live